Monday December 5, 2011

CARTER VANDERHOOF

Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- Don't believe in Santa? The Ho, Ho Hotline at Pine Heights may change your mind as Santa and Mrs. Claus will both be answering calls from children all around the country.

"We train residents to answer the phone as Mrs. Claus or Santa," said Karen Emerson, with the recreation department at Pine Heights, a nursing and rehabilitation home. She said every year Pine Heights does what is called the Ho, Ho Hotline, which children can call who are wishing to speak directly to Santa or Mrs. Claus. The hotline will be open from Dec. 19 to 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.

At the Ho, Ho Academy, on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 2:30 p.m., residents will be trained to answer some difficult questions that children may ask.

If a child asks for a horse or car the residents will know how to tell them they might not get it, in a way that doesn't break their holiday spirit.

"They'll say, Santa can't promise them that they'll get a horse for Christmas," said Emerson. "If someone wants a brother or sister, tell them I'll leave that up to mommy and daddy."

She said the residents go through a question/answer period where kids might say there's no such thing as Santa. The person answering the phone might come back with, "Are you sure? Why don't you tell me what you want, just in case.


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To keep the residents in the loop of what kids may wish for each year, a toy manager from Target visits Pine Heights each year to let them know what is popular for that Christmas.

"The toy manager from Target brings toys and shows the residents what's hot for this year and what kids might ask for," she said.

Other than spreading Christmas spirit to children all around the country, residents at Pine Heights participating in the Ho, Ho Hotline may also get joy out of taking the calls.

"I think it gives them a purpose; makes them feel like their doing something for the community," said Emerson.

She said Christmas may not be what it used to be for them and doing something that's helpful for the kids could fill a void in their holidays.

"It really boosts the residents, it helps them get through the season sometimes," she said.

Emerson said each year there are more and more calls. She said they have been doing the hotline for about five years, only getting about 10 calls the first year, but 30 last year.

Workers at Pine Heights will decorate the lobby to make it festive for the training and leave the decorations until after Christmas. Emerson said former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas was at Pine Heights the first year they had the hotline and declared them the official North Pole substation.

To tell Santa or Mrs. Claus what you want for Christmas this year, try the Ho, Ho Hotline at: 1-866-997-2682.